The following is a guest article from Artelier. Submit your own article or building project to be featured on the BIMsmith Blog.
As international art consultants, Artelier specializes in curating art for luxury residential, hospitality, yacht, and aviation projects. As well as sourcing contemporary art by leading global artists, they also collaborate with artists to create custom art commissions tailored to the project.
A spa is one of the most luxurious spaces that a residence, yacht, or hotel can have; going to the spa ought to transport the visitor far from their everyday life, to a place of tranquility and rejuvenation. Specially commissioned artworks for spas create an immersive aesthetic experience like no other. Working with an art consultant results in a custom art collection that is not only integrated into the design but uniquely adapted to the humid environment of the spa.
Onboard Serenity: Art for Yacht Spas
The current trend for onboard wellness features, such as spas and saunas, has encouraged yacht designers to seek ways to create a relaxing and opulent atmosphere, which feels distinct from the rest of the yacht. Custom art is an integral element of yacht spa design, as commissioning bespoke artworks allows them to be specially tailored to the technical requirements of the yacht, and to the heat and steam of the wellness features.
As art consultants for M/Y Plvs Vltra (74m), Artelier commissioned porcelain wall art for the yacht's jacuzzi. Collaborating with a leading ceramic artist, we created an intricate, yet resilient, installation of hand-sculpted porcelain flowers. Each flower was fixed onto a board in concentric circles, giving the impression of ripples on a pool of water. Within the space, the harmonious symmetry of the circles evoked a Zen-like simplicity.
Since the porcelain artwork would hang directly beside the jacuzzi, a humid-resistant coating was specially applied to the porcelain to ensure the artwork's longevity. In addition, the technique was adapted so that high-grade water-resistant adhesive secured the porcelain flowers.
The curved back wall of the yacht spa presented a particular challenge, as the base of the artwork needed to fit flush against the spa wall. Working with the yacht yard, Artelier reviewed the measurements of the wall and developed a custom board, which measured exactly to the wall's curvature. In addition, the wider environment of the yacht spa needed consideration – the wall art not only had to withstand longterm exposure to humidity, but also the vibration of the yacht itself. Throughout the commissioning process, we worked closely with the artist to ensure the sculpture was technically suitable for enduring the vibration, adapting how the delicate porcelain was fixed to the board.
As part of our art consultancy services, we review all potential locations for artworks onboard. We identified a key location for custom art in the yacht's sauna.
The artwork needed to resist the extreme heated environment, and be safe for the users of the sauna – an artwork with metal elements, for example, was not suitable, since it would heat up considerably and be dangerous to touch. We, therefore, recommended using carved wood art, in line with the wood used for the sauna itself.
A leading contemporary artist was commissioned to create hand-carved wooden panels, which would be fitted into the sauna walls and were tailored to the unique space. The adhesives and wood finishes were selected due to their suitability for protecting the artwork against heat and potential water exposure, ensuring the artwork was hardwearing.
We carefully consulted the design scheme of the sauna to consider how the artwork would integrate, selecting a wood that complemented the neutral tones of the other wooden elements of the sauna. The abstract design carved into the panels, on the other hand, subtly contrasted with the parallel lines of the sauna's wooden planks.
Statement Glass: Residential Spas
Residential spa design offers more scope for creatively incorporating art; Artelier's Artist Walls collection presents artists whose large-scale artworks are ideally suited for striking feature walls. Glass art is an excellent option for residential spas, as the material is highly versatile and suitable for diverse modern styles, as well as easy to clean and maintain.
A residential project in the United States saw Danny Lane, one of Artelier's Artist Walls artists, create multiple glass feature walls for several key locations in a home spa. The commissioned artworks also served as architectural features, functioning as statement walls that were tailored to individual environments.
In the poolside area, Lane created a colorful and playful glass artwork, with integrated lighting to illuminate the vivid colors. The contrasting deep blue and bright orange is reminiscent of Henri Matisse's stained glass in the Vence Chapel, giving a contemporary spin on vibrant glass art. The artwork brought an element of the unexpected to the design of the poolside area, making for a refreshing atmosphere.
Elsewhere in the project, Lane's glass artwork was integrated as a key structure – artworks served as glass partition walls, zoning the dressing area and hallway in a unique way. Not only did the glass feature wall provide visual continuity between the spaces, but the translucent glass effectively dispersed the light where it was not possible to have windows. The presence of natural light creates an especially uplifting atmosphere, which is invaluable for a spa area.
The swirling patterns are made using cutting-edge technology, allowing the glass to be carved with stunning precision – this creates the effect of shading, producing an impression of depth in the composition. On a practical level, the artwork's patterns serve as frosted glass, which is beneficial for separating the hallway and dressing areas.
Closer to home in London, architects often opt for subterranean expansion when seeking extra space, as townhouses typically have a limited footprint that does not allow for signification extensions. Subterranean spas in London's prime residences are often characterized by exceedingly modern, innovative design, and so necessitate art that speaks to this sleek, edgy environment.
For an underground spa in a private residence on Kensington Palace Gardens, Artelier recommended an artist who creates a statement glass wall art that has a dark, mysterious feel. The artwork's textural variety and rich layers are produced by combining glass with precious metals and oxides. The glass is then fused in a kiln, and through the alchemic processes of extreme heat, unpredictable colors and abstract patterns are created.
The finished artwork was a triptych of three glass panels, running alongside the pool and elongating the space with its linear composition. Glass is an ideal medium for spa art, as its surface can be toughened to make it withstand knocks and be especially robust. The natural properties of glass allow it to withstand high temperatures, and also be easily cleaned as the surface can be wiped down without damage.
Creating glass artworks involves working with a fluid medium when the glass is in its molten state. A sense of fluidity is therefore inherent to the artwork, creating a natural connection with surrounding water features. Since the characteristic colors of glass are variations of blue and green, glass has intrinsic qualities that integrate flawlessly into a spa setting: the serene colors that are well suited to spas are already present in the material, making glass appealing for spas for both practical and aesthetic reasons.
Incorporating Natural Surroundings
Spas that transcend the boundaries of property interiors offer a distinct kind of tranquillity, and a sense of returning to nature. Working directly with a private client on a residential project in northern Europe, the focus was connecting the indoors with the surrounding landscape. The concept for the specially commissioned artworks was to bring a sense of earthiness to the spa using organic materials.
We collaborated with sculptor Peter Hayes to make monumental ceramic panels for several walls around the spa, including the poolside area. Using clay inherently connects the artwork to the land; the earth itself is transformed to create the wall art, becoming part of the fabric of the space. As ceramic art is an ancient craft, a contemporary artwork still bears deep-rooted primeval, elemental qualities.
The artist's use of Raku-firing brings the element of fire to the artworks – ceramics are fired in an open flame kiln in this traditional method, creating dramatic smoke marks and earthy colors where the fire reacts with oxides. While the earth references the surrounding land, the fire relates to the heat of the nearby sauna. The idea of the elements was pushed further on another commission in the spa's relaxation area, where the artist created four ceramic panels inspired by each of the four elements - Fire, Earth, Water, and Air.
For wall art in an interior bathroom, which opened up onto the surrounding gardens, we commissioned a sculptor to create a carved relief feature wall from local wood. The choice of wood, like the clay used for the outdoor sculptures, brought nature into the home and referenced ancient, sustainable craftsmanship. The artist juxtaposed different abstract patterns that were inspired by natural textures – such as tree bark, feathers, and water ripples. To protect the wood from humidity and make it easier to care for, it was coated with a specialist protective wax.
For coastline residences, connecting with the outdoors means incorporating the sense of open ocean and sky; open balconies and roof terraces offer an opportunity to bring this serenity and ambiance to the spa. Ocean-facing outdoor bathrooms are a luxurious and invigorating addition to a residence, and likewise, spas that have outdoor relaxation areas can reap the benefits of scenic ocean surroundings.
When curating art for spas outdoors, finding ways to evoke and enhance the environment through artworks creates a link between the space to its surroundings, and so reinforces a sense of being 'at one' with nature. For a recent outdoor bathroom, Artelier sourced an artist who creates expressive paintings on the reverse of glass – using monochromatic tones, the artist's gestural sweeps, and fluid motions evoke water. Referencing the ambiance of the spa space, it captures both the dynamic force of the ocean and its tranquillity.
Artworks that are commissioned to be in the outdoors, as well as exposed to the humidity and frequent use of home spas, need special consideration for how to protect them. Using an artist who paints on the reverse of glass is an excellent option, as the painting is fully preserved against contact and exposure to water. As with all glass spa art, it can also be easily cleaned and so is simple to maintain.
Working with a developer on a spa in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, we suggested Claire Burke for making an artwork for the spa's relaxation area. She created a bespoke feature wall artwork from inks and gold leaf on aluminum – as art consultants, we worked with the artist to develop an outdoor grade lacquer that would give enduring protection to the artwork surface, and allow it to be wiped. The lacquer also enhanced the luminescent qualities of the pigments; this enhanced the abstract artwork's impression of dappled light underwater.
The artwork also referenced the reflected sea and sky, separated by the horizon. We curated the space to highlight this relationship between the artwork and the surroundings, reinforcing the union between water and air in the aesthetic experience of the spa.
Restorative Retreats: Art for Hotel Spas
Art for hotel spas must give the guest experience – hotel spas are a retreat into a different world, a space to transcend every day and be rejuvenated. Creating an impact to an entrance is essential, and so as art consultants, we consider how guests would enter the spa and interact with the artwork.
Using a statement glass artwork as a feature wall utilizes the movement of guests to create a 'wow factor' – as they move around the translucent screen, their anticipation builds, as they feel they are entering a special place of peace and seclusion. Considering the nearby floor-to-ceiling glass windows, carving the glass would cleverly refract the light to create an otherworldly atmosphere.
For the pool of a boutique hotel in the Swiss mountains, due to open later this year, we sourced a contemporary sculptor whose hand-carved panels recall streaming water. This abstract interpretation was in keeping with the modern design, yet created a statement in an otherwise minimalist space. The sense of movement was enhanced by the gilded finish, causing the sculpture to shimmer; this effect was amplified by specialist lighting around the artwork.
By placing the artwork directly above the pool, the bespoke sculpture is reflected in the water itself, creating an impactful 'double' artwork. Due to the custom sculpture's proximity to the water, specialist protective lacquer was coated onto the artwork, ensuring its resistance to splashing.
A hammam-style hotel spa space can be given a contemporary edge with bespoke artwork, such as a feature wall above a plunge pool. Collaborating with the artist Adam Arbeid, who works with crushed marbles and mineral ores, we developed a painting that spoke to its surroundings – the composition referenced the water below and the rising hot air, merging the surrounding natural elements.
The artist is inspired by the imagery of the ocean depths and how light is refracted underwater, and so recreated this ethereal experience through subtle gradations in deep blue hues. This brought the calm and stillness of the deep ocean to space.
To further integrate the artwork into the surroundings, we developed technical solutions to adapt the painting so that water could stream through it. The continuous stream of water is referenced in the artwork itself through abstract bubble shapes. The waterfall also causes the painting behind to shimmer as it streams in front, incorporating water into the artwork and creating a sense of constant movement.
Upcoming Spa Projects
A ground-breaking yacht project, due to be delivered in 2023-2024, is pushing the limits of innovative technology and materials in all aspects of the yacht design. As being onboard a yacht is fundamentally an experience of water and light, the concept behind the spa is to create the impression of being in an ethereal underwater realm.
As art consultants, we sourced an artist to develop a series of free-standing glass artworks that would serve as the interior walls of the yacht spa. Taking the theme of an underwater spa as inspiration, the glass surroundings would create an immersive feeling, like being submerged in the ocean depths. This would recreate the ocean's silence and tranquility in the spa, making for a visceral experience. Glass inherently uses the more atmospheric colors of the sea, leaving the impression of being surrounded by water.
The techniques used to create the panels are at the forefront of glass innovation – the cast glass is fused in a kiln, after which the artist hard-carves and polishes the artwork to create diverse textures. The modular panels will be illuminated with integrated lighting, which highlights the shapes of the carved glass and heightens the mood of the spa. An enchanting aspect of the glass is that it can create suspended bubbles – as the fluid medium cools in the kiln, it traps air and freezes bubbles within. A moment in time is captured within the material, encouraging the sense of time standing still, and inviting the guests to relax in reflection.
As art consultants for residences, hotels, and yachts, we have provided custom art commissions for varied spa projects, working with a range of materials that are suited to the spa environment. The properties of glass and ceramic are particularly appropriate for spa art, as their natural qualities are in harmony with the spa's atmosphere, as well as the practical requirements. Yet, Artelier always seeks to push the boundaries for what is possible for spa art – there are many artists working with other compelling materials, and we have incorporated these through carefully adapting them to the spa environment. With the right expertise, any vision the client has for their spa art can be realized.
To learn more about Artelier's art consultancy services, and our process for commissioning art more broadly, please visit our Art Consultancy homepage. Further examples of our yacht art and residential projects can be found on their dedicated pages: Yacht art and Residential art.
Image of Plvs Vltra interior courtesy of Winch Media.